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Republican Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted is calling out Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her efforts to shut down a major pipeline that carries Canadian oil through the Midwest.
Whitmer, a Democrat, argues that Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 poses a risk of a “catastrophic” oil spill in the Great Lakes. She and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel have launched legal challenges to shut down the 1953-built pipeline that carries oil through northern Wisconsin and Michigan to refineries in Ontario.
The ongoing Line 5 dispute is receiving renewed attention at a time of high gas prices, a ban on Russian oil imports and efforts to boost oil and gas supplies on the indoor market.
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Husted said Michigan must end its legal efforts to shut down a friendly energy source from the Canadian pipeline. Whitmer’s actions threaten Ohio’s economy and could cause more pain at the gas pump, the Republican said.
“With what is happening with Russia and Ukraine, I think the world is learning right now that we cannot depend on other nations for the supply of our oil and gas that are against us,” Husted told Fox News Digital in an interview. “We can work with countries that are allies – in this case, with Canada and Line 5 – but Michigan is being unreasonable and irresponsible with their actions.”
The Russo-Ukrainian war, however, did not prompt the Whitmer administration to end its fight against the pipeline. Nessel, Michigan AG, recently said it hopes the Biden administration will be more “vocal” on the pipeline closure and argues the impact on Michigan gas prices would be “incredibly minimal.”
“I wish the Biden administration was even as strong a fraction of the importance of shutting down line 5 as Justin Trudeau and his government have, you know, maintained a pipeline that’s exceeded its lifespan by, you know, two times,” Nessel reportedly told the Royal Oak Area Democratic Club in March.
Rising consumer energy prices signaled to Whitmer the need to develop alternatives to oil, rather than become more dependent on fossil fuels, his office said.
“The energy supply constraints resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the price hikes created by big oil companies have underscored the importance of ensuring that Michigan does not depend on too much from a single source and have the energy independence to protect Michiganders’ wallets and our state’s economic security,” Bobby Leddy, Whitmer’s press secretary, told Fox News Digital in a statement.
“That’s why we’re moving forward to diversify our state’s energy options, which will dramatically increase jobs and economic investment in our state.”
The pipeline problem has meant that Ohio is siding with Enbridge and Canada over neighboring Michigan. If Michigan shuts down the pipeline, Ohioans would end up with higher fuel prices and economic hardship, according to Husted.
A new study by Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) found that if Line 5 were closed, gas prices in the Midwest region would increase between 9.47% and 11.66%.
The shutdown would mean refineries in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec would lose about 45% of their crude oil supply, reducing their ability to maintain current production levels. And drivers in this region will pay at least $4.7 billion more each year for gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the study by CEA, a company, energy supplier and consumer group.
“You see the impact of rising fuel prices on public opinion and on the lives of working-class Americans,” Husted told Fox News Digital. “In this case, it’s caused by [Russian President] Vladimir Poutine. But it could easily be caused by Governor Whitmer in the future for the people served by this pipeline if they can’t find an alternative.”
Whitmer’s office disputes that a pipeline closure would have a major impact on gas prices, pointing in part to a 2017 independent report titled Alternative Analysis for the Straits Pipeline which found that gas prices in Michigan if the Closing Line 5 would increase about two cents per gallon for gasoline and diesel.
Another report released this year by Environmental Defense Canada, an environmental group, found that the impact on consumer gasoline and diesel fuel prices in neighboring regions of Ontario and Quebec would be so modest that would “likely go unnoticed” as long as the shutdown was coordinated with other investments in the crude oil logistics system.
The big picture, according to Whitmer, is the potentially devastating impact a pipeline rupture would have on the environment and the economy.
“Governor Whitmer’s top priority is to protect our economy and Michigan’s 350,000 jobs that depend on the Great Lakes, while ensuring our state has access to affordable energy supplies,” said Leddy, Whitmer’s press secretary, to Fox News Digital in a statement. “Currently, Line 5 is operating at normal capacity, and this has had no impact on gas prices, even when Enbridge has shut down the line for extended periods to perform routine maintenance. »
Michigan has recent experience with oil spills and near miss calls. In 2010, another Enbridge pipeline burst near Marshall, Michigan, spilling 843,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek that was discharging into the Kalamazoo River, a tributary of Lake Michigan. And in 2018, a large ship dragged an anchor that damaged part of Line 5 that sits at the bottom of the Strait of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Scott Hayes of Toledo Refinery Company in Oregon, Ohio, said his plant would likely close if it no longer had access to Line 5 crude oil.
“Closing Line 5 would most likely result in a domino effect, causing the closure of our plant and several other regional refineries, as the main supply chain for raw materials would be cut off, as well as propane for heating in the winter. “, said Hayes, director of the company. head of health, safety, environment and government relations, told Fox News Digital.
“These closures would be devastating regionally – for families living in Michigan who depend on propane delivered via Line 5 and for the rest of the Midwest who will be affected by the huge price spikes predicted by a line closure. .”
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Whitmer’s office says there is enough capacity in existing pipelines to offset potential losses to Detroit and Toledo-area refiners if Line 5 is taken out of service. In 2013, according to the governor’s office, there was an unexpected and extended shutdown of Line 5, and refineries in the Detroit and Toledo area operated without interruption.
The 2018 pipeline anchor strike did not cause an oil spill, but the close call prompted former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP legislature to allow Enbridge to replace the lower lake of the pipeline by a new tunnel drilled through the rock under the bed of the lake which will shelter the pipeline and better protect it from ruptures or impacts from anchors. Enbridge has agreed to pay for the $500 million project, dubbed the Great Lakes Tunnel.
Line 5 has operated safely and reliably in the Strait for more than 65 years, according to Enbridge, and the Great Lakes Tunnel will virtually eliminate the risk of a pipeline incident in the Strait by drilling through rock, up to 100 feet under the bed of the lake. – to house Line 5. Additionally, this will ensure that the region has critical energy resources delivered in the safest and most sustainable modes available.
“It is clear that a closure of Line 5 would only add to the current disruption in the energy market and hurt small businesses and hardworking families in Michigan and throughout the region at a time when they can least afford it,” Ryan said. Duffy, a spokesperson for Enbridge, told Fox News Digital.
“That’s part of why Enbridge is actively advancing the Great Lakes Tunnel to ensure safe, reliable power is available to support the region’s economy,” Duffy added.
Enbridge last year received permits to build the tunnel under the Strait of Mackinac from the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
Enbridge has yet to obtain approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission and the US Army Corps of Engineers at the federal level.
Ohio’s Husted said the tunnel project should be approved to ensure Line 5 continues to operate safely and the United States can continue to work with Canada to increase supplies. Renewables should be sought, but such alternatives are still decades away from replacing oil, he said.
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His message to Whitmer: “Let’s be reasonable. Let’s not eliminate a critical supply line for the fuel that powers our states. [and] our economy. Gas prices are quite high. We don’t need to artificially restrict supply.”